VOYAGE 126 - Southbound - Freeport to Port of Spain

AMAZING GRACE is a converted British Navy Lighthouse Tender now operated by Windjammer Barefoot Cruises, Ltd of Miami, Florida. It is used to supply the five Windjammer sailing ships. It also carries passengers on its 3300 mile round trip between Freeport, Bahamas and Port of Spain, Trinidad.†††

SATURDAY December 26th-
It's the day after Christmas and our flight to Miami goes well. From there it's only a short bumpy hop to Grand Bahama. Our taxi pulls up to Amazing Grace about 8 PM. We sign on and meet some friends at the bar. At one minute to Midnight the last two of the ninety-four passengers arrive on the dock, everyone cheers and twelve minutes later we cast off on a two week Caribbean adventure.

SUNDAY December 27th -
We're all day at sea heading Southeast and passing through the Bahama out islands. There's the obligatory life jacket drill in the morning followed by a two hour session in the saloon filling out various visa and immigration forms. By evening the ocean has become unsettled. Only about half of the passengers show up for dinner. The bar closes early from lack of patronage

MONDAY December 28th -
Bright sun, blue sky, puffy white clouds and a warm breeze...† We sight Castle Island around noon and anchor out about 300 yards. Castle Island is one of the low-lying Bahamas. It has a solar powered lighthouse that works most of the time and a rusty old wreck awash in the surf. Part of the cargo of the wreck was 5000 pairs of used shoes bound for St.Lucia. Dozens of them can be found sticking out of the sand on the beach. The sand is a white powdery mixture of shell and coral. The snorkeling near the wreck is excellent.

TUESDAY December 29th -
Although it was a little rough last night, this morning dawns as just another perfect day in paradise. About 11AM we drop anchor in the harbor of Cockburn Town on Grand Turk. The dock space usually reserved for Amazing Grace has been taken by another ship so our passenger landings are by launch. Amazing Grace brings Grand Turk it's only supply of beer, and on this trip it requires three launch loads to get it to the dock. This takes so long we get a late start out of the port. †Once clear of the eastern reef we shape a course to the British Virgins. The run from Grand Turk to the BVI takes us through the open Atlantic with no islands to our windward for protection. Several groups of dolphins accompany us until dark, leaping our wake and ducking under the stern.

WEDNESDAY December 30th -
It's another full day of rough seas on our ESE course. The Medical Officer and the Bartender are busy passing out Dramamine. Most everyone stays below reading or playing board games. A small group of dolphins plays along side for the better part of the forenoon. Throughout the day schools of flying fish flit and skitter through our bow wake.The sky is getting more blue, the clouds are becoming more puffy and everyone is looking forward to tomorrow and a full day of activity.

THURSDAY December 31st -
Amazing Grace makes passage between St John and Tortola about 11AM and we enter the Sir Frances Drake Channel. The real Caribbean starts here. A half an hour later, we're in the harbor at Roadtown,Tortola. As we are somewhat late in arriving, our berth at the dock was taken by Windstar and they have no notion of giving it up. This means Amazing Grace will do an at-anchor resupply of Legacy. We put down a couple large pneumatic sea fenders and pull up alongside Legacy which is already here waiting for us. Our passengers go ashore for a dry landing on the ferry dock right in downtown Tortola. Pussers Store There are interesting things to do here. We stop in at "Sunny Caribee" where they sell a variety of spices and local art pieces; and then it's on to Pusser's Store which is the meeting place and cultural center for tourists and transient yachtpeople. It's a bar, restaurant, clothing store and a really nice place to hang out. At 5PM our berth becomes available and the captain moves Amazing Grace in to the dock.

The biggest event of the year is happening tonight on the neighboring island of Jost van Dyke. Foxy's New Years Eve Party just gets bigger and better every year. The Jost van Dyke harbor is packed with hundreds of yachts. There is no room for a ship our size to get in. Some of the passengers are going over by water taxi. Since New Years Eve coincidentally coincides with the full moon, another big event, Bomba's Full Moon Tea Party will be delayed until tomorrow so as not to conflict with Foxy's. We elect to stay on the ship and be entertained by a local steel drum band.

FRIDAY January 1st -
At noon we leave Roadtown and head out across the channel to Cooper Island where the Flying Cloud is waiting her turn at resupply. Another extremely smooth hook-up and in minutes the fuel lines are connected, the cargo nets are swinging and the process hums along. Cooper Island doesn't have a lot going for it. There's a bar-restaurant, sand fleas, poison apple trees and a beach with a rocky bottom. There is supposed to be good snorkeling somewhere around the island, but we've never found it. By 6PM we break our connection to Flying Cloud and set a course for Sint Maarten.

SATURDAY January 2nd -
We arrive in Great Bay at Phillipsburgh pre-dawn and idle along until daylight. The harbor here is relatively shallow so our coupling with Polynesia will take place about a ten-minute launch ride from the dock. Jennifer, our Activities Mate advises that the 12 meter America's Cup yacht races have been cancelled due to choppy waters in the race course. This is a really big disappointment because several of us went out of our way to avoid hangovers so as to participate in the race with clear heads. So we went ashore with the rest of the tourists.

In a quarter-mile stretch along Front Street there appears to be 200 jewelry stores with half of them operated by a guy named Joe. In the same stretch there are a several casinos. Captain David advises if you don't know anything about jewelry stay out of the St. Maarten jewelry stores. We heed the captain's advise. The casino atmosphere is relaxed and laid-back. The twenty-one tables are big and roomy. They deal a six-deck out-of-the-box no-touch game. The drinks are free. The air conditioning works fine and our dealer is one generous dude. If you're going to vacation on the beach, St. Maarten is a good place to do it.

Polynesia is disembarking her passengers today, Saturday. She remains in Phillipsburgh and will take on a new load of fun seekers Monday. † We, however, journey on to new adventures.

SUNDAY January 3rd -
Basseterre, St. Kitts - The harbor here is not very well protected and it was hit rather hard by Hurricane Georges. Most all of damage has been cleaned up and repairs and new construction of facilities is underway. It's Sunday. Everything is closed.

We contracted for a cab to take us on an island tour. The local industries are sugarcane and tourism. There are exquisite gardens and a batik studio at Romney Manor.But the most impressive site on the island is the restored fortifications of Brimstone Hill, thirty-eight acres of high ground that dominates the southwest corner of the island and commands views of St Barts, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Martin, Nevis and Montserrat. The Anglican Churchyard in Basseterre contains a number of very old and interesting gravesite and crypt inscriptions. We cast off from the dock about sunset and head southward for Dominica.

MONDAY January 4th -
Dominica (Do-min-eť-ka) is a relatively large island with an abundance of rainfall and lush foliage. And that just about sums it up. †We get a cab on the dock at Roseau and negotiate a customized tour with our driver, Larry Love. There is very little that is attractive, interesting or remarkable about the town of Roseau. †Our real destination is the Emerald Pool in the high rainforest. From an access road it's a quarter mile hike along a winding trail through huge hardwood trees that reach up 150 ft to form the top of the forest canopy. There are orchids and bromeliads sprouting from every crevice. There are giant ferns and the sounds of dripping and trickling water everywhere. It's mid-day, yet the filtered sunlight down here is like it was dusk. The waterfall into the pool is not huge but it is spectacularly beautiful. It produces a rising turquoise mist. This is truly a worthwhile experience.

We leave Roseau at 6pm. On this day the bay is like a mirrored lake. It's difficult to tell where sea ends and the sky begins. It's incredibly smooth. This lasts only about an hour. As soon as we clear Scotts Head at the southern tip of Dominica we are no longer in the island's lee. We're in the Dominica Channel and fully exposed to the Atlantic rollers. †And it starts to get really angry. The seas are running 15 feet, there are wind gusts up to 30 knots and things are going bump in the night.

TUESDAY January 5th -
Several early risers report seeing a whale breach about a hundred yards off to starboard. After this there are no further whale sightings. About 8AM we arrive at Port Elizabeth, Admiralty Bay, Bequia. This is the slickest dock parking job yet. Amazing Grace heads straight into the congested docking area. We reverse the propellers and with some bow thruster application, the captain does a 180 turn and slides effortlessly into docking position without a single correction move. The general consensus among the passengers is Captain David Ferguson may be the best boat driver in the Caribbean.

Admiralty Bay is a safe protected anchorage. †Boats and ships of all sizes are in the harbor. Port Elizabeth was once a bustling whaling village, but now it's a yachtsman's port.  Bequians have strong ties to the sea. They are the descendants of American whalers, Scotch sailors, French freebooters and African slaves. They are boat builders, seafarers and fishermen and they are intensely proud of their heritage.

There are a number of nice restaurants on Bequia. At Mac's and The Whaleboner you can get lobster pizza. There's a neat old bookstore, two shops that carve world-class model boats, tee shirt stores, batik shops, a general store and a couple of nighttime party places. The people are most friendly and the island is unspoiled. Bequia is definitely a "Come Back Again" place.

WEDNESDAY January 6th -
Smooth sailing all night. †We enter the Palm Island anchorage about 9AM. Both Mandalay and Yankee Clipper are here waiting for us. The immigration officials are being difficult over some bureaucratic snag so we have to wait for clearance before we can go ashore. In the mean time we're tied alongside Mandalay and transferring supplies. We do go ashore eventually. Palm island is a private island resort or perhaps a private resort island. The Palm Island Beach Club (The Caldwell Family) has a hotel, cottages, a bar, restaurant and gift shop. Other than that it's all beach and palm trees. By the time we get back to the ship, Mandalay has been re-supplied, Amazing Grace has moved to the smaller Yankee Clipper and is nearly finished with her. At 5:30 we break away and head straight for Trinidad.

THURSDAY January 7th -
Another night of good sailing weather. About breakfast time we enter "The Dragon's Mouth" passage into the Gulf of Paria where we pick up the Port of Spain harbor pilot. Amazing Grace continues parallel to the coast line for a few more miles on into port. Along the way, off to starboard, there seems to be a number of wrecks and partially submerged derelicts. We count over a dozen of them. The Captain clears up all the speculation for us at story time. These are ships left by their crews and owners who came here looking for cargo, found none, and simply abandon their ships.

We tie up at the western end of the pier near the Windjammer yard and dry dock. We can see Windjammer's Barefoot Rogue in drydock and next to her the "new" Rogue is being refitted.

Trinidad may be the most cosmopolitan spot in the Western Hemisphere. There are more languages spoken here than even in the Los Angeles Public Schools. †Port of Spain is the capital and largest city in this nation of over one million. †The downtown business district begins at the twin financial towers which are only a block or two from the Windjammer docks. It's a short walk to Frederick street which is a real international bazaar. Here you can find everything from posh jewelry stores to knockoff watch kiosks. †There are a great number of fabric stores and the range and selection of their stock is world class.

To say that vehicle traffic in Trinidad is heavy and congested is a gross understatement. Cars and light trucks rule. As a pedestrian you have a right only to a speedy funeral. On our way to the airport Friday morning we pass about ten miles of backed up two-lane commuter traffic headed into the city.

Some unusual sea conditions put a small damper on the early part of the trip, but as soon as we got to the BVI, that was forgotten. Overall the weather was very good. The ship's mechanical systems were working well. There was always hot water. The air conditioning was in good order. (There was one five-second power outage while we switched generators.) Both ship's launches were working most of the time. The cargo handling went smoothly and was interesting to watch. The decks were clean and orderly, the brightwork was bright and the officers and crew kept the passengers well informed.

The Cabin/Dining Room Stewards were outstanding and the output of the Galley was amazing and delightful. Bar service was good. The Purser and Activities Mate were helpful and almost always available. Captain David is friendly, open and approachable. He knows how to run a ship and is an excellent seaman.

The passengers ranged in age from 8 to 90, with a mean average somewhere in the mid-fifties. Almost two-thirds of the passengers were previous Windjammers and about half had sailed on the Amazing Grace before.


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